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Payment In Full
by [?]

The two black horses attached to the light buggy were chafing in the crisp October air. Their groom was holding them stiffly, as if bolted to the ground, in the approved fashion insisted upon by the mistress of the house. Old Stuart eyed them impatiently from the tower window of the breakfast-room where he was smoking his first cigar; Mrs. Stuart held him in a vise of astounding words.

“They will need not only the lease of a house in London for two years, but a great deal of money besides,” she continued in even tones, ignoring his impatience.

“I’ve done enough for ’em already,” the old fellow protested, drawing on his driving gloves over knotted hands stained by age.

Mrs. Stuart rustled the letter that lay, with its envelope, beside her untouched plate. It bore the flourishes of a foreign hotel and a foreign- looking stamp.

“My mother writes that their summer in Wiesbaden has made it surer that Lord Raincroft is interested in Helen. It is evidently a matter of time. I say two years–it may be less.”

“Well,” her husband broke in. “Haven’t they enough to live on?”

“At my marriage,” elucidated Mrs. Stuart, imperturbably, “you settled on them securities which yield about five thousand a year. That does not give them the means to take the position which I expect for my family in such a crisis. They must have a large house, must entertain lavishly,” she swept an impassive hand toward him in royal emphasis, “and do all that that set expects–to meet them as equals. You could not imagine that Lord Raincroft would marry Helen out of a pension?”

“I don’t care a damn how he marries her, or if he marries her at all.” He rose, testily. “I guess my family would have thought five thousand a year enough to marry the gals on, and to spare, and it was more’n you ever had in your best days.”

“Naturally,” her voice showed scorn at his perverse lack of intelligence. “Out contract was made with that understanding.”

“Let Helen marry a feller who is willing to go half way for her without a palace. Why didn’t you encourage her marrying Blake, as smart a young man as I ever had? She was taken enough with him.”

“Because I did not think it fit for my sister to marry your junior partner, who, five years ago, was your best floor-walker.”

“Well, Blake is a college-educated man and a hustler. He’s bound to get on if I back him. If Blake weren’t likely enough, there’s plenty more in Chicago like me–smart business men who want a handsome young wife.”

“Perhaps we have had enough of Stuart, Hodgson, and Blake. There are other careers in the world outside Chicago.”

“Tut, tut! I ain’t going to fight here all day. What’s the figure? What’s the figure?” He slapped his breeches with the morning paper.

“You will have to take the house in London (the Duke of Waminster’s is to let, mamma writes), and give them two hundred thousand dollars in addition to their present income for the two years.” She let her eyes fall on his toast and coffee. The old man turned about galvanically and peered at her.

“You’re crazy! two hundred thousand these times, so’s your sister can get married?”

“She’s the last,” interposed Mrs. Stuart, deftly.

“I tell you I’ve done more than most men. I’ve paid your old bills, your whole family’s, your brothers’ in college, to the tune of five thousand a year (worthless scamps!) and put ’em in business. You’ve had all of ’em at Newport and Paris, let alone their living here off and on nearly twenty years. Now you think I can shell out two hundred thousand and a London house as easily as I’d buy pop-corn.”

“It was our understanding.” Mrs. Stuart began on her breakfast.

“Not much. I’ve done better by you than I agreed to, because you’ve been a good wife to me. I settled a nice little fortune on you independent of your widder’s rights or your folks.”